Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights fails to gain govt attention

ISLAMABAD: When Imran Khan, the opposition leader, would say that people did not pay tax because of their mistrust on the government, an advisory committee of eminent experts, constituted by Federal Tax Ombudsman, was busy in preparing a report to diagnose the problem and subsequent solutions.

Among other prescriptions, it drafted Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TBR) to inspire their confidence on the government. The report was furnished and uploaded on the FTO website by Dr Shoaib Suddle, then FTO, left the office and report is still there without getting due attention. Instead, the previous government formed a Tax Reform Commission but its recommendations were not implemented either.

As PTI government took charge amid high hopes, the revenue collection dipped further touching even a historic low and it suggested Imran Khan was unable to regain the confidence of taxpayers. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, who was part of the advisory committee, drafted TBR to invite attention of the government on the bill of rights.

Founder of Center for Peace and Development Initiatives, Mukhtar is a prominent transparency rights activist. He has served as information commissioner of Punjab RTI Commission.

In the beginning of this month, he wrote letters to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Finance Minister Asad Umar, State Minister for Finance Hammad Azhar and Chairmen of Standing Committees on Finance in Senate and National Assembly both. None of them has replied so far. A reading of TBR suggests its implementation will not only inspire the confidence of taxpayers, it will also be a great step forward towards changing the mindset of tax administration.

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights has been designed with a purpose to provide best quality services by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities; ensuring the government frame and practice tax laws and policies with integrity and fairness.

The proposed bill of rights grants nine rights to a taxpayer: right to information and assistance; right to privacy and confidentiality; right to professional, fair and courteous services; right to representation and be heard; right to fair and just tax system; right to timely and remedial actions; right to administrative review and right to judicial review.

Above all of them are governing principles which are also related to the rights as it requires the government not to levy any tax without approval from Parliament meaning thereby no taxation through SROs. Also, it has been demanded, that taxpayers concerned be consulted before imposition of any new tax. For example, if it to be levied on salaried class, they should be consulted. Likewise, different industrial sectors and traders community should also be consulted before imposition of a new tax.

Right to information and assistance requires the FBR to provide taxpayers on demand complete, accurate, clear and timely information regarding the basis for and amount of any tax, penalty or refund owed. A taxpayer must be informed what is being taxed and procedure of payment. Moreover, FBR shall explain a taxpayer’s right and assist him in protecting those rights. A taxpayer shall also have a right to speedy information about various categories like number of taxpayers, tax defaulters, filers versus non-filers, current and development budget, refunds, status of tax related cases in courts and tribunals, role and responsibilities of various officers etc. FBR shall also pro-actively disclose information of public interests.

Right to privacy demands FBR of maintaining confidentiality of taxpayer information (except as authorised by law). Right to professional, fair and courteous service requires FBR to serve taxpayers in a befitting and expeditious manner. A taxpayer will be entitled to lodge a complaint with a senior officer in the event of improper behaviour of a dealing staff. If the supervisory officer does not entertain complaint to the satisfaction of the aggrieved taxpayer, he can have recourse to the FBR member concerned and onward to chairman.

Right to representation and be heard entitles taxpayer the right either to present himself in person or through an appointed representative. If a taxpayer (or his representative) during an interview seeks time to consult an expert, he shall be obliged and FBR stop and reschedule the interview.

Fair and just tax system is yet another right of a taxpayer which shall protect him from perverse and arbitrary, unreasonable, biased, oppressive or discriminatory decisions, processes and recommendations by FBR. A taxpayer is responsible for paying only the correct amount of tax due under the law; neither more nor less.

A taxpayer also shall have the right, according to the draft, for timely remedial action against illegal and arbitrary acts of FBR and entitled to relief from penalties and interest under tax legislation because of extraordinary circumstances. FBR shall waive penalty if taxpayer can show that he acted reasonably in good faith or relied on the incorrect advice of an FBR employee. It shall also waive interest that is result of certain errors or delays caused by an FBR employee.

A taxpayer has the right to administrative review by the Federal Tax Ombudsman and subsequently any representation before the President of Pakistan. He has the right not to pay tax amount in dispute unless Tax Ombudsman directs so. Tax Ombudsman shall help a taxpayer to enforce the rights granted under this charter.

A taxpayer has the right of appeal or review of his case before an independent judicial tax appellate system if he disagrees with FBR about the amount or his tax liability or FBR collection actions. A taxpayer has the right to seek additional judicial remedy in court.

Published in The News International 

CPDI stressed effective legislation on RTI law in Balochistan

QUETTA:  Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has urged the Balochistan government to make amendments in RTI act, 2005 in the light of international best practices.The amendments shall aim to promote transparency, openness and maximum disclosure of information; like RTI laws applicable in KP, Punjab and Sindh. Provincial cabinet of Balochistan has formed a committee to discuss proposed amendments in RTI Act, 2005.

Mr. Amer Ejaz, Executive Director CPDI said that KP, Punjab, Sindh and federal government has repealed weak RTI laws and replaced it with progressive RTI laws. The Government of Balochistan should now follow the suit and expedite legislation of effective RTI law. Citizens and journalists face innumerable problems in having access to government held information related to public matters. He added that Balochistan FOIA 2005 is not effective and doesn’t provide legitimate access to information held by public bodies.

Currently, Balochistan has the weakest RTI law in Pakistan because it has many flaws e.g. scope is restrictive, process of getting information under RTI is neither free nor easy, list of exempted information is longer than the disclose able information. Most importantly, citizens of Balochistan do not have an independent appellate forum like Punjab Information Commission and KP RTI Commission.  He further said that RTI Law is an instrument of change for bringing much needed transparency and accountability in the provincial governmental sphere.

Published in Balochistan Express

 

CPDI stressed effective legislation on RTI law in Balochistan

QUETTA:  Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has urged the Balochistan government to make amendments in RTI act, 2005 in the light of international best practices. The amendments shall aim to promote transparency, openness and maximum disclosure of information; like RTI laws applicable in KP, Punjab and Sindh. Provincial cabinet of Balochistan has formed a committee to discuss proposed amendments in RTI Act, 2005.

 Mr. Amer Ejaz, Executive Director CPDI said that KP, Punjab, Sindh and federal government has repealed weak RTI laws and replaced it with progressive RTI laws. The Government of Balochistan should now follow the suit and expedite legislation of effective RTI law. Citizens and journalists face innumerable problems in having access to government held information related to public matters. He added that Balochistan FOIA 2005 is not effective and doesn’t provide legitimate access to information held by public bodies.

 Currently, Balochistan has the weakest RTI law in Pakistan because it has many flaws e.g. scope is restrictive, process of getting information under RTI is neither free nor easy, list of exempted information is longer than the disclose able information. Most importantly, citizens of Balochistan do not have an independent appellate forum like Punjab Information Commission and KP RTI Commission.  He further said that RTI Law is an instrument of change for bringing much needed transparency and accountability in the provincial governmental sphere.

Published in The Balochistan Point

بلوچستان میں ضلعی سطح پر بجٹ سازی میں شفافیت اور عوامی شمولیت کا فقدان ہے، سی پی ڈی آئی، سمارٹ کا سروے

ہرنائی: سینٹر فار پیس اینڈ ڈیویلپمنٹ انیشییٹوز (سی پی ڈی آئی) کی طرف سے آغاز کردہ مطالعاتی جائزے کے مطابق سروے میں شامل 20 اضلاع میں سے کسی بھی ضلعی حکومت نے بجٹ کی تشکیل کے دوران عوام اور متعلقہ افراد (سٹیک ہولڈر) کی شمولیت کو یقینی نہیں بنایا۔ بجٹ کال لیٹر تاخیر سے جاری…

Published in News Room

Call for citizens’ participation in budget-making process

SHANGLA: Participants of a seminar held here the other day called for transparency and citizens’ participation in budget-making process at the district level in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The seminar titled ‘district government budget rules 2016’ was organised by Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI) in Bisham, which was attended by members of local government, social activists and village council secretaries.

“The first draft of the district budget should be presented in April to ensure timely input from citizens,” said Raja Shoaib Akbar, programme manager of CPDI.

He said they had conducted a study which revealed that the budget-making process lacked transparency and citizens’ participation at the district level in the province.

He added that only two districts had functional websites while 85 posts remained vacant in district budget branches.

Shamsul Hadi, CPDI’s KP coordinator, said that the local governments had failed to include stakeholders in budget-making process.

He said none of the districts released pre-budget statement that according to the budget rules was mandatory and would have provided the stakeholders a chance to express their opinion on the budget proposals.

Pre-budget consultation with stakeholders was also not held in 30 per cent of the districts.

According to the budget rules, budget call letter (BCL) must be issued in September as the first step of budget making.

He said the study showed only six districts had issued the BCL till November 15.

Mr Hadi said that the districts were not making use of information technology to share information with citizens, as only two districts had own functional websites.

He said that not a single district issued a citizens budget which was meant to share salient features of the final budget with citizens in easy to understand language.

According to the officials, the budget branches in districts also faced shortage of human resource.

Published in Dawn

سی پی ڈی آئی کی جانب سے ضلعی سطح پر بجٹ سازی کے عمل پر مشتمل سروے رپورٹ جاری

نصیرآباد: سی پی ڈی آئی کی جانب سے ضلعی سطح پر بجٹ سازی کے عمل پر مشتمل سروے رپورٹ جاری کر دی گئی رپورٹ کے مطابق عوامی شمولیت اور شفافیت کے اعتبار سے بلوچستان میں بجٹ سازی کا عمل انتہائی مایوس کن رہا۔بجٹ کال لیٹرزدیر سے جاری کیے گئے۔ شفافیت کوفروغ دینے کیلئے بجٹ سازی …

Published in News Room